Class Action Lawsuits

Uptown People's Law Center has six class action lawsuits filed against the Illinois Department of Corrections. These lawsuits will ultimately change the prison system in Illinois for the better. To learn more about a case, click on the name. 


Rasho v. Baldwin: Mental Health Care

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) punishes prisoners with mental illness, rather than properly treating them, and the treatment that is available is grossly inadequate. In May 2016, we entered into a settlement agreement with IDOC to completely revamp the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in Illinois prisons. 

Lippert v. Baldwin: Medical Care

Health care in Illinois prisons is so inadequate that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to fix the medical and dental care provided to Illinois prisoners. 

Holmes v. Baldwin: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Prisoners

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections for failing to provide Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners with interpreters, hearing aids, or other assistive devices, thus depriving them of meaningful access to medical appointments, religious services, disciplinary hearings, and many other vital interactions with staff. 

Davis v. Baldwin: Solitary Confinement

Illinois prisoners are confined, often for 24 hours a day, to small, airless cells with no natural light, reduced food, and minimal yard time. Many are held in this extreme isolation for years. We are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections to end this cruel and unusual punishment. 

Morales v. Monreal: Parole Revocation

In October 2016, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys and adequate hearings to eligible parolees accused of violating parole. We are now monitoring the implementation of the settlement agreement. 

Ross v. Gossett: Excessive Force

Uptown People's Law Center is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections on behalf of hundreds of prisoners who experienced excessive force, and physical and sexual assault at the hands of an abusive team of correctional officers called the "Orange Crush tactical team."


Closed Cases:

Westefer v. Snyder: Closing Tamms Supermax Prison:

Tamms Supermax Prison housed hundreds of prisoners in round-the-clock solitary confinement. UPLC sued, stating that prisoners were sent to Tamms as retaliation for speaking out against the Illinois Department of Corrections. In 2010, the District Court ruled that every prisoner who had been sent to Tamms had been denied a hearing which complied with the minimum requirements of due process. UPLC then led the fight which, three years later, permanently closed the prison. 

 

MH v. Finley: Juvenile Parole

In January 2015, we settled a case that now requires Illinois to provide attorneys (at the state's expense) to juveniles who are accused of violating their parole. 


It's easy to underestimate the brutality of boredom, but people in prison will tell you that keeping your mind occupied is essential to survival. Paulette Fiedler, a 69-year-old prisoner at Logan Correctional Center in Illinois, keeps her mind alive by reading — she plows through book after book.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has revised its publication review policy to include a centralized appeal process for incarcerated people who feel they’ve been unfairly denied access to certain reading materials.

Even after a major class action suit required Illinois to revamp its prison healthcare system, doctors whose alleged neglect resulted in major injury or death still remain on the prison system payroll.

Illinois corrections officials have issued a sweeping new regulation that appears to prohibit prisoners from being sent materials downloaded from the internet.

Earlier this year, Danville prison removed about 200 books, many of which dealt with race issues. But the new rules don’t go far enough, says one advocate.

When recent news reports revealed that a number of Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) staff maintained a private Facebook group they used to dehumanize, taunt and degrade transgender prisoners and people of color, we were not surprised.

A Prisoner Review Board memo released in July requires a minimum of 12 hours of movement with ankle monitors, but some people say they’re still being given far less.

More than a dozen correctional employees in Illinois are under investigation after they were accused of mocking transgender inmates in private Facebook groups, state officials said.

At least 25 Illinois Department of Corrections employees have taken part in online conversations that mocked, demeaned, or disclosed personal and medical information about transgender inmates — including calling transgender women “it” and “he” — in two private Facebook groups, an Injustice Watch review has found.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker says his administration is committed to passing legislation that will promote transparency around prison deaths, even though the Illinois Department of Corrections under him opposed legislation in the spring that would have done just that. His office refuses to detail what concerns the administration had with that legislation or what fixes it would like to see included in any proposed bill, saying only that the office had “logistical concerns with the measure as written.”

What if prisons moved past archaic notions of “punishment” and shifted instead towards rehabilitation models? Stateville Calling explores the possibility of restoring incarcerated people’s lives, highlighting the personal narratives of elderly prisoners. Directed by Ben Kolak and produced by Yana Kunichoff, the hour-long documentary follows the current battle to pass legislation reinstating parole in Illinois, which the state hasn’t had since 1978.

The mass strip search was purportedly carried out as part of a cadet training exercise, meaning that the women were subjected to this humiliating violation without even the pretext of an immediate safety need.

Court interpreters are in high demand in Cook County, home to 743,200 people with limited English proficiency—around 15% of the population. But in recent years, the number of full-time interpreters has decreased. In 2014, the county had 34 full-time interpreters; now, there are 29.

While I know nothing about Epstein’s death in particular, I know a lot about suicide in jails and prisons. Prisons are toxic to mental health. They are places of violence.

Officials at an Illinois prison suspended an educational program for inmates, launched two internal investigations and removed 200 books from a prison library because many had “racial” content or addressed issues like diversity and inclusion, according to records obtained by the Tribune.

For nine and a half months, Lydia Thornton was locked into her cell nearly 24 hours a day. All of her meals were slid through a slot in the cell’s steel door. She was allowed outside to shower three times each week. Through cinderblock walls, she could hear women in adjoining cells screaming for hours on end. Sometimes they threatened to kill themselves, a threat often followed by an eerie silence.

Two House committees listened to testimony Monday from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and other groups involving an incident in which books provided to educate prisoners at the Danville Correctional Center were seized from the library by prison staff.

CHICAGO — A transgender woman who was battling the Illinois Department of Corrections over alleged abuse while she was incarcerated has been released from prison, officials said Tuesday.

Transgender inmate Strawberry Hampton is out of prison after waging a two-year battle to be housed with women to escape the horrors she says she suffered at the hands of male guards and prisoners.

A transgender woman who garnered national attention after making abuse allegations against guards and inmates at multiple Illinois men’s prisons is now free following a public campaign for her release.

The new director of the Illinois Department of Corrections said during a legislative hearing in Chicago on Monday that the agency plans to revise its policy regarding what books can and cannot enter the prison.

CHICAGO — A transgender woman who was battling the Illinois Department of Corrections over alleged abuse while she was incarcerated has been released from prison, officials said Tuesday.

During a forum held July 3 at Malcolm X College, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th), activists and formerly incarcerated individuals addressed some of the injustices in the criminal justice system.

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing to limit solitary confinement and improve the health care, political representation and voting rights of state prisoners.

We'll hear the story of why 200 books were removed by staff from a prison library in Central Illinois.

PEORIA — A shortage of psychiatrists and other trained staff has hindered the state's efforts to comply with a federal injunction mandating improvements to the care provided to about 12,000 mentally ill inmates.

Overall, 60 percent of the eviction cases filed end with a judgment against a tenant, but when tenants have legal representation their chances of staying housed increase substantially.

“As a result of the IDOC’s systemic failure to keep trans women in custody safe from sexual violence, Tay Tay has survived attacks, threats and constant harassment.”

Illinois Department of Corrections officials this week approved the transfer of a transgender inmate from an all-male prison to a women’s prison after she repeatedly claimed she’d been the victim of sexual harassment and abuse.

Incarcerated trans people can fight to create legal precedents that help the whole transgender community. Here are five who fought for important legal victories.

Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would force prisons and jails in Illinois to provide information about how people in their custody die. The Illinois Department of Corrections often doesn’t provide basic information to families or the public and keeps shoddy and incomplete records, according to documents turned over to WBEZ by prison administrators.

Lawyers for a transgender woman held at the Pontiac men's prison have filed a lawsuit asking that she be moved to a women's facility, and an end to alleged sexual assault and harassment she has experienced for a decade.

A transgender woman incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center in central Illinois has filed a federal lawsuit seeking a transfer to a women’s prison. The Uptown People’s Law Center and the MacArthur Justice Center filed a federal suit Tuesday on behalf of 29-year-old Janiah Monroe, according to a statement from the UPLC.

Nicole Davis said her uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer after his release from prison in 2014. He was confined to his home because of an electronic monitoring device strapped to his ankle. He missed many necessary doctor appointments before he died, Davis said. She said that’s because he couldn’t get permission from his parole officer for the medical visits.

"There were a lot of times my sons tried calling me,” recalled Annette Taylor, who regularly receives calls from her two sons in prison, “but there was no money on the account.” Those were some of the “hardest calls,” she said. “I would worry something was wrong.”

LINCOLN — When the light catches the specks of glitter on her face, Deon Hampton looks the part of a stage performer, a role she hopes to play after leaving prison. Hampton, who adopted the name "Strawberry" as a child after realizing her male body did not match her female identity, was transferred to the women's facility in Lincoln in December after a federal judge ruled the Department of Corrections failed to protect Hampton when she lived in male prisons.

The family of Chicago resident Charles Edward Jones who passed away in custody in 2015 is set to receive $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The funds are to be paid by the city’s taxpayers.

Inadequate treatment of mentally ill prisoners is a problem across the U.S. When psychiatric institutions began closing down in the 1950s, they weren't replaced with mental health services in the community. So, many people with mental illness have scrapes with the law, and end up in prisons that are ill-equipped to treat them.

Our executive director Alan Mills makes a request of Illinois' new governor.

Just before Christmas, the 27-year-old transgender inmate was granted a rare transfer to a women’s prison in alignment with her gender identity. The move came amid her yearlong court battle chronicling allegations of abuse and sexual assault by both inmates and corrections staff at four men’s facilities across Illinois.

Ashoor Rasho has spent more than half of his life alone in a prison cell—22 to 24 hours a day. The cell was so narrow he could reach his arms out and touch both walls at once.

"I was in Tamms, Pontiac, Menard, Dixon, Shawnee." Gay said, "Pretty much five prisons transferred back and forth to one solitary cell to the next."

Victim's advocate Dawn Valenti believes a long sentence is just. Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center calls the sentence inhumane.

“We hope this is the beginning of the end of prisoners’ needless suffering and even death. It is a long road, and we are committed to ensuring the necessary changes are made,” declared Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center.

A federal court has ordered the State of Illinois to address its “failure to . . . meet the constitutional requirements with respect to the mental health needs of” its approximately 12,000 prisoners with mental illness. This case reached a settlement agreement in 2016, but the Illinois Department of Corrections failed to live up to the agreement, and constitutional violations continued.

Amid claims of preventable deaths and substandard medical care, state officials have agreed to a sweeping overhaul of the health care system at prisons across Illinois, according to a proposed federal consent decree filed in Chicago on Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has agreed to a plan that would allow a federal judge to oversee health care in the state’s prisons. The agreement comes eight years after a lawsuit was filed alleging the treatment in Illinois’ prisons is so poor that it violates the constitution.

With his mental state deteriorating as he sat in the crushing isolation of solitary confinement, a desperate inmate named Anthony Gay saw a temporary way out.

Sometimes it came in the form of a contraband razor blade. Occasionally it was a staple from a legal document or a small shard of something he had broken.

The Illinois Department of Corrections moved a transgender woman from a men’s prison into a women’s prison. The move happened over a year after the inmate filed a lawsuit against the agency claiming she was a target for repeated sexual assaults, taunting, and beatings.

A transgender woman who described feeling like a “sex slave” while incarcerated in several men’s prisons across Illinois has been transferred to a women’s prison after a yearlong court fight.

  • Kenneth & Harle Montgomery Foundation